Midfielder Pepe Segarra moves the ball up field, Wednesday.
The No. 1 seeded High Point Panthers rode three first half goals to a 3-1 victory over the No. 4 seed Liberty Flames in a Big South Men's Soccer Championship semifinal match, Wednesday evening at Vert Field.
Midfielder Kevin Mendoza netted his 10th goal for Liberty, briefly tying the contest midway through the first half.
Liberty finishes the year with an 10-6-1 record. The Flames posted their first 10-win season in four years when they posted a 11-6-1 mark in 2014. High Point moves to 10-5-3 overall. The Panthers will host the winner of No. 6 seed Presbyterian vs. No. 2 seed Radford on Sunday at Vert Stadium.
The host Panthers struck less than four minutes into the first half of play. Off a corner kick from the left side of the field, midfielder Ryan Inman sent the ball to the far post. Forward Jonathan Bolanos came free and headed the ball into the right side of the net for his seventh goal of the year and a 1-0 edge at 3:04.
Liberty countered and ended up with a corner kick of its own during the 11th minute. Off the corner kick by midfielder Ruben Garcia into the middle of the 18-yard box, defender Isidoro Garcia sent a header over the top of the goal for the Flames' first shot attempt of the contest.
During the 23rd minute, Liberty midfielder Kevin Mendoza pushed a pass from the middle of the field behind the Panthers defense to put defender Nico Bellarde one-on-one with High Point goalkeeper Keegan Meyer inside the box. Bellarde get off a shot, but Meyer deflected the shot off his shoulder to prevent the goal.
The Flames knotted the contest during the 32nd minute. Counterattacking, Matthew Zaczyk moved up the left sideline and placed a pass between two High Point defenders for Mendoza. Behind the defense, the Liberty midfielder beat new Panther goalkeeper Pat Fallon with a shot to the lower right corner, knotting the contest at 1-1. It was the first goal allowed by High Point in 352:00 of play.
The host Panthers struck for two goals in a span of 2:32 by Connor Cesar. Cesar popped his third goal of the season and his first of the evening over the head of Liberty goalkeeper James Knoebel off a long clearing pass out of the High Point end at 35:47 for a 2-1 advantage.
Less than three minutes later, Panthers midfielder Bana Ganidekam tipped a pass back to Cesar at the top of the box. Cesar ripped a rising shot into the top right corner, extending High Point lead to 3-1.
For most of the second half, Liberty played a man down due to a red card to a Flame during the 53rd minute.
With the Flames pushing forward on their attack looking to cut into its deficit, Panther forward Justen Shear worked to open for two shots on goal during the 61st minute. However, Liberty keeper Knoebel stopped both shots to keep the Flames within striking distance.
Up a man, High Point controlled ball possession and amassed several shot attempts, but a stingy defensive effort by Liberty's defense held the Panthers without a shot on goal over the final 29 minutes.
During the 77th minute, a Flames' counterattack resulting in shot. Forward Rigo Rojas side-steeped a defender and lined a shot off the post. Liberty held the possession and was able to garner a corner kick, which High Point cleared.
High Point outshot Liberty, 14-5. The Flames held a 3-1 advantage in corner kicks.
Knoebel made two saves in the contest, while Meyer recorded one. Fallon did not have a save during his 23 minutes in the Panthers goal.